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Nationalism Michael Lacewing

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1 Nationalism Michael Lacewing

2 Nation v. state State: political structure that is sovereign, defining the legal rights and obligations of citizens, and claiming a monopoly on the use of force Nation: a group of people united in some way States can contain more than one nation (UK?); one nation can exist in more than one state (Kurds) Nationalism is not patriotism

3 National identity Nations involves ‘national identity’, normally understood in ethnic and/or cultural terms. Members are born into and raised with a particular language, tradition, and culture. This creates a ‘national character’ and sense of unity. Aspects of individual character come from national character. National identity also connects to a geographical place and historical continuity.

4 Nationalism Nationalism claims (Miller): –that a national identity is a defensible source of personal identity, – that nations are ethical communities imposing reciprocal obligations on members which are not owed to outsiders, and –that nations have a good claim to be politically self-determining

5 Nationalism Nationalism leads to sense of unity and solidarity, which can support defence of common liberties and distributive justice. Alternatives: individualism and cosmopolitanism But is national sentiment irrational? –An evolutionary thought: groups that developed bonds of feeling and cooperation do better –Culture replaces ‘blood’ bonds

6 Rights of nations Do nations have a right to self- determination (e.g. their own state)? Group rights: –Not the individual rights of members of a group, but the rights of the group, taken collectively –What groups can have rights? Need unity and identity; and a distinct moral status (e.g. irreducible duties or interests)

7 Rights of nations Rights give rise to duties – what are the duties, and who has them? –Others have the duty not to interfere with a nation’s self-determination –Do individuals have the duty to sacrifice their self-interest in the group interest (e.g. in war)? –Do individuals have the duty to preserve the distinct culture of the nation?

8 Nationalism and rights If we have these duties, then we have them only for our own nation. So the source of the duty must be national identity. –But other identities, e.g. being homosexual, don’t impose duties. National identity is more fundamental: –It is political, not personal. –It is cultural, the basis of our values.

9 Liberalism: The limits of a nation’s rights They cannot override individual rights claims. They are subordinate to the claims that a state has on its citizens. False nationalist beliefs should only be tolerated if they are not harmful. The legitimacy of nationalist claims derives from the choices of individuals.

10 Is there a right to national self-determination? Such claims have led to violence (e.g. the Balkans). There is not enough land for every nation to have a state. But what about national autonomy within a state?


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